Forget About The Fold

How about we all agree to stop talking about the fold of a webpage? Are you asking yourself how to get your web page to fold? Wondering if we are all making fancy internet paper airplanes and you have been left out? Don’t worry. It is, in fact, not possible to get a webpage to fold. The concept is an old design term rooted in print (as most are) that refers to the fold of a newspaper and that information found “above the fold” being the most critical message to convey.

This concept has led many a website to cram in all of their messages to this mythical space (which has previously been defined as above the 600px mark) which results in a jumble of ideas, text, images and content jumping out at the user not unlike walking through the demo booths at the state fair.

Where is that magical scroll bar?

On a website, the fold typically means the area that appears before a viewer needs to start scrolling. Believe it or not, users do know how to scroll. Your page layout is important—and yes, the information at the top will be noticed first and needs to grab the user’s attention. But then your user will still click or scroll through the rest of your website’s content.

If everything of exceptional quality is pushed on the reader at the beginning, once they start exploring and the rest of the site isn’t of the same calibre, they’re going to be let down. Keep them intrigued enough to remain on the site and actually seek out new information, and find out more about your firm. Let’s not get stuck on an invisible line above which everything needs to be crammed.

The fold and changing technology

With the recent boom in web-capable (and mostly mobile) devices, the definition and functionality of the fold is quickly becoming obsolete. We can no longer assume our websites are being accessed from a traditional desktop monitor, a mobile phone, or an iPad screen in portrait orientation. Each of these screens would have a fold at a completely different part of the page. It is much more important to test your design on various devices and try to find a mid-ground on your layout.

Okay, don’t forget it completely

Along with the fascinating article on eye tracking, Jakob Nielsen has also done some research on this idea of the fold and scrolling. In 1997, he found that only 10% of web users would scroll a page to see content that was not visible in the initial display. But this was way back when the internet was brand new. He has since updated his advice to allow for scrolling. However it is important to note that his eye tracking surveys show that web users spent 80% of their time looking at the information—yes, above the fold.

The key here is not to focus too much on the “fold” itself, but rather attempt to keep your core message within a “safe zone” while maintaining a quality design overall. Use the top part of your website to lead the user in to your site and make them want to read on. If the page is designed properly then they will have no problem scrolling on to find the rest of your content. Regardless, you should let your designer worry about where things are positioned on the page. That’s their job. Your job is simply to tell them what’s important for you on this page and let them recommend the best way to lead the user to it.


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